Sarah Hansen – Gather Up Your Days
Many of us know that St. John’s, NL, is the place to go if you want to spend every night of the week in a pub, listening to live music. I’ve done that with friends, but we found a dearth of women on the stages of St. John’s. Just about everywhere we went during our visits there, we found an overwhelmingly male music scene.
Well Sarah Hansen’s new CD, Gather Up Your Days, actually demonstrates that there are indeed women on the Newfoundland music stages, and highly talented women who work behind the scenes to make music happen. This collection of tunes, all crafted and sung by Sarah, is a really lovely piece of work, and she had help from a whole lot of women in making it happen.
The liner notes tell the story: production: Lori Clarke and Sarah Hansen; recording and mixing: Michelle LaCour; additional recording by Lori Clarke; mastering by Sarah Shin and consulting production by Kelly McMichael. The men are there in the studio – excellent bass, guitars, drums, bouzouki and mandolin, all in service to the songs and voice of Sarah. It’s so nice to hear a great piece of musical work where women are calling the shots.
A couple of the opening tunes, “So Many Lies” and “Favours to Find,” have a distinctly country sound. There’s pedal steel guitar in the first of these two ‘hurtin’ songs that lament lost relationships. Country music in Newfoundland is a legacy of the WWII era military bases on the island, where service men brought the music from their home states in the USA. It remains popular to this day, despite Newfoundland having its own really strong musical traditions that date back to Irish settlers. And Sarah does return to those roots in later songs on the CD.
In “Down the Grey River,” Sarah sings a soulful elegy to the pain of suffering gladly and loving blindly. Then, there are several songs that pay tribute to women: “Rosalie” is about a worthy woman who heals the world through song; “Madeleine,” a lament for a lost friend, has an amazing otherworldly sound informed by the drone of the harmonium and atmospheric use of electric guitar; “Sweet Liza” has simply beautiful use of the cello and piano.
On “Receiver,” Sarah makes good use of a soft rock theme to explore the whirlwind of a new relationship and being on the edge of falling in love.
“Face the Facts” is quite openly a warning about the global climate emergency, with its lyrics of “have we gone too far to come back… can we find a way to face the facts…”
In “This Woman,” Sarah writes and sings a beautiful tribute to the toil and sacrifice made by women everywhere, women who ultimately are powerful and strong.
The title track, “Gather Up Your Days,” is about hope in the face of darkness. You face life’s trials, you rise and you fall, but ultimately, you persevere.
The final track on the album, “Ready To Begin,” is simply gorgeous. It’s a spare arrangement, just voice and piano. A woman is giving in to the depths of a new love. She’s passionate and hoping for the best, singing, “are you ready to begin…”
With this album, Sarah Hansen has absolutely established herself as one of the finest singer-songwriters in Newfoundland.